Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Queen of Ireland: Champion of Same Sex Marriage

We were on our way to see The Queen of Ireland at Carlton's Cinema Nova when we came across a political march in Melbourne's CBD. Seems everything is connected these days.

This documentary is promoted by Transmission Films as 'An uplifting documentary about Ireland's superstar drag queen Panti Bliss as she rises from ‘giant cartoon woman' to one of the highest-profile activists in the LGBTIQ community.'

The film is actually about Rory O'Neill whose occupation is that of old fashioned drag queen. His life intersects dramatically with the successful Irish referendum on marriage equality in 2015. The connections between his private story and his public exposure as a champion of the cause climax in his triumphant return to his hometown of Ballinrobe.

The Queen far exceeded my expectations. Plain-clothes Rory is a thoughtful, engaging person, quite unlike his alter ego in many ways. Director Conor Horgan gives us a very sympathetic portrait. The documentary deserves the praise it has received.

The Australian situation, with a proposed plebiscite on same sex marriage, appears to parallel Ireland. However, having this vote has been opposed by most of the LGBTIQ groups down under. A referendum is not required to change the law, as was the case in Ireland. Nor is a plebiscite binding on the Australian parliament. Former PM Tony Abbott and opponent of same sex marriage adopted the policy as a tactic to delay giving his government members a free parliamentary vote. His successor Malcolm Turnbull supports marriage equality but agreed to the proposal to placate the right-wing of his party.

The Labor Party opposition has rejected the proposal, arguing for a free vote in parliament, citing both the cost ($A 200 million) and the negative social and psychological impact on gay people and their families. The plebiscite bill is likely to be blocked in the Senate. The Guardian reported recently:
Advertisements for the anti-marriage equality case in the Irish referendum caused a majority of LGBTI people to feel angry and distressed, according to a new study.

The survey of 1,657 Irish LGBTI people also found that only a minority of respondents would be prepared to face the referendum again if they did not know about the eventual successful outcome.

Rory/Panti refers to this aspect when meeting referendum supporters after the result.

His journey is one that is well worth following.

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